Thursday night, walked back up to Central Market after work to see Pablo & the Hemphill 7 play. Recently saw them again for the first time in about four years and dug the stripped-down lineup (guitar, bass, drums, and percussion, with Hembree and Sir Steffin both singing backup behind Joe). On this night, they were even more stripped down, since Jonathan Irwin had school, which just gave Damien Stewart more room to operate behind the traps. (Having an Andre Edmonson mix didn't hurt.)
I forget what a beautiful guitarist Sir Steffin is. He showed me his new amp, a custom job by a local guy, based on a Fender Deluxe with no reverb (my fave amp of all ti-i-ime) with a single 12-inch speaker, but much lighter. Besides having a great tone, nobody I know combines melodic playing and rock-solid riddim so well; while he's not out to wow you with his chops, he does things that are so subtle, yet so right, that they knock you out anyway. These days, he approaches "No Woman, No Cry" like Nels Cline, pushing down on the bridge to make the chords swell. Nice.
The real high point of the evening was watching Joe Vano's daughter Eva, who's six now, watching her dad play with the other kids in the playground. My sweetie told her mom that she looks like Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird. At one point, we saw a little boy mouthing "That's your dad?!?!?" incredulously. Joe had promised not to "be a bad influence on the kids," but wound up playing "Little Man and Chiva Joe" by request for the latest generation of 20somethings dancing in front of Pablo's stage anyway. (Has it really been almost a decade now?)
The next day at work, I saw a woman with a baby who'd been watching the show the previous night, and she said that "they sounded good, even though they didn't have all their members there (based on their name)" and said what a great singer "Pablo" was. I had to agree.
Saturday, we walked up to Fred's to see ex-Gideon Chuck Rose playing with the Chiefs, who just changed their name from Grass Valley after they lost their female singer. We like walking by Farrington Field during high school football season and hearing the marching bands and the crowds going wild for their (on this Saturday night, JV) kids' shot in the big stadium. Chuck playing country-rock seemed like a weird proposition, but then I remembered that he told me once he used to play bass for Fort Worth country institution Johnny Carroll, so it made more sense.
The last time I saw Chuck and Tom Battles play at Fred's was with the Howling Dervishes at Fredfest back in 2007. The Chiefs are a different proposition, playing jangly and reverb-drenched country rock in a Byrds/Flying Burrito Brothers bag with some interesting song choices. As we walked in, Chuck was singing Hag's "Mama Tried," but the set (mostly sung by Tom) also included selections like Nilsson's "Everybody's Talking" and most bizarrely, a twanged-out the Who's "Baba O'Riley" (which perversely got more dancers on the floor than anything else, until the hoedown at the end).
For us, the best part of the night was seeing Carl Pack, who's managing Fred's front-of-house at night of late while Angel runs the kitchen, and hearing stories about his daughter Stormie's adventures in kindergarten at Lily B. Clayton. (Outlaw Chef Terry Chandler was in the house but not working; we ran into him and his wife showing some people around the Curmudgeon Zone on our way in.) All in all, a good night out. My sweetie posted some of her pics, including a beautiful Texas sunset, on her photo blog. Click on 'em to make 'em big and leave her a comment, why doncha?